Fear and anxiety are common feelings, especially in modern-day society. It seems that there is always something to be scared of or anxious about.
As a general rule, anxiety is caused by an identifiable, external event. There are, however, reasons for anxiety that are not easily identified. Possible causes of unexplained anxiety, otherwise known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, can include medical conditions, interactions with food, or unresolved trauma.
Check out our list of reasons that may be the culprit behind your mysterious feelings of fear and anxiety.
Which Medical Conditions Cause Anxiety?
When you are feeling anxious or scared and you can’t identify an external cause for these feelings, a good first step is to schedule a visit with your healthcare provider.
After speaking with them, they should point you in the right direction regarding any helpful testing. Oftentimes, we may be completely unaware of issues with our physical health. Imbalances, deficiencies, abnormalities and medications are all things to consider when seeking answers for unexplained anxiety.
Conditions that are known to cause and/or mimic anxiety include but are not limited to;
- Parkinson disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Tumors- brain and/or adrenal
- Hormone imbalance (thyroid/adrenal)
- Infectious Disease
- Nutrition- specifically B12 deficiency
- Nervous System Damage
- Head trauma or post-concussive syndrome
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Drugs- over the counter and prescription
For someone already suffering from anxiety, it can be especially daunting to investigate potential medical causes. It can be comforting to realize that most medical-related anxiety is due to an imbalance, usually in the thyroid and can be corrected if diagnosed correctly.
The thyroid hormone is connected to neurotransmitter regulation. A diseased thyroid will affect your mood, often through depression or anxiety. Any physical symptoms experienced as a result of a thyroid imbalance will exacerbate the problem, causing extra worry about your health.
If you have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), you may experience:
- Unusual nervousness
If you have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), you may experience:
- Mild to severe fatigue
Whether it’s an imbalance or a deficiency that may be causing your anxiety, testing and professional help are always recommended. It is very important to avoid self-diagnosis when trying to uncover a medical reason for anxiety and to seek proper guidance from a healthcare professional.
What Foods Can Trigger Anxiety?
Many people don’t realize that certain foods can trigger symptoms of anxiety in the body. This holds especially true for those that have sensitivities.
An increase in the neurotransmitter histamine, for example, can add to the anxiety levels of people that are “perfectionists” and are already prone to anxiety.
Foods that contain histamine or contribute to an increase in histamine include; cheese, cured meats, chocolate, alcohol, nuts, beans, and pickled foods.
Caffeine is another substance that can trigger anxiety. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can lead to anxiety symptoms like shaking, irritability, and heart palpitations. A small amount of caffeine is tolerated by most people, however, for those that are sensitive, headaches and shaking can result.
Sugar is a major trigger when it comes to anxiety symptoms. Too much sugar, particularly the refined variety, causes blood sugar to go up and down in an extreme manner. When it is low, mood can be affected and anxiety can increase.
If you have unexplained anxiety symptoms, try avoiding processed foods or sugary foods in general.
Fried Foods can also cause symptoms of anxiety if the sufferer is prone to acid reflux. Fried foods are very difficult for our bodies to digest and can cause mild vomiting that results in anxiety-producing choking sensations.
Processed foods, and food additives are also possible causes for anxiety symptoms. The high amounts of sodium found in processed foods can raise blood pressure which can lead to excessive anxiety-causing adrenalin in the body. Food additives such as MSG and aspartame have both been linked to mental health issues including depression and anxiety.
What Foods Help Anxiety Instantly?
When it comes to anti-anxiety nutrition, Magnesium is the star of the show.
Magnesium is involved with over 200 enzymatic reactions in our body and specifically interacts with serotonin – the feel-good chemical in our brain. Low magnesium can mean low serotonin.
We can increase our Magnesium naturally through our diets. Foods naturally rich in magnesium include; leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Getting adequate amounts of zinc can also relieve anxiety. Zinc helps produce our neurotransmitters, serotonin, and dopamine.
Zinc maintains the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the body, transporting messages of calm. A healthy vagus nerve can support the easing of anxiety. Zinc also supports the immune system and reduces inflammation, including that which occurs in the brain.
Foods rich in zinc include; meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, and whole grains.
Psychological Reasons for Unexplained Anxiety
Emma McAdam, a licensed therapist that runs the very popular YouTube channel Therapy in a Nutshell shares 5 reasons you may be experiencing unexplained anxiety or “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”.
1. Micro Threats
Micro threats are tiny events in our daily lives that cause small bursts of adrenaline in our bodies put us into fight or flight over and over again. These bursts may not be noticeable and often become part of our routine.
Our world is full of events that cause this reaction and can include things like driving in heavy traffic or being late for work or school. Our brain perceives these things as threats to our survival (losing our income) and with an accumulative effect, micro threats can cause anxiety.
2. Avoidance and Distraction
Avoiding feeling bad or distracting yourself from your troubles can cause unexplained anxiety. If your signs and symptoms of anxiety are ignored, you will find yourself caught in an anxiety cycle.
Emma suggests that if you take the time to slow down and do nothing for a while and you feel worse while doing so, then you are definitely using distraction and avoidance to avoid your feelings and symptoms.
If you have symptoms of anxiety, it is important to pay attention to these symptoms and listen to your body. The signs it is giving you are indications that something needs to change. The more you ignore the signs, the louder the anxiety will become in an attempt to get you to listen.
3. Distorted Thinking
If you have unhealthy thinking patterns, your thinking can become distorted and cause underlying anxiety that you may not be aware of.
Distorted thinking includes things like; black and white (all or nothing) thinking, catastrophizing, or mental filtering where you only see the bad things around you.
Processing your thoughts in this manner, on a consistent basis can fire your fight or flight on a low level so that you are inadvertently in a constant state of anxiety all day, every day.
4. You’re Ready to Face the Past
Our brains are so amazing. They know when we have reached a point in our personal growth and they will bring up old trauma once it senses that we are capable of dealing with it.
If we have unexplained anxiety and are experiencing old memories of past traumas, that could be our brain’s way of saying we need to deal with this incident now and move on. If we can successfully process the old hurt, the anxiety should cease.
5. You’re Not Living Your Values
Underlying, unexplained anxiety can also be a sign that you are not living your values.
The difference between not living your values and distorted thoughts is that values always give you the choice to do something better.
Ask yourself if there is an area of life you want to change?
How Do I Get Rid of Unknown Anxiety?
A good place to start if you are suffering from unexplained anxiety is to visit your healthcare provider. Speak to them about your physical health and any possible deficiencies or imbalances you may have. They may order testing or give you guidance that will help discover what is causing your anxiety.
Next, consider your diet and the possibility of eliminating some or all of the foods that can trigger physical anxiety symptoms. Again, seek guidance from your healthcare provider when it comes to your diet and any changes you wish to make.
If possible physical causes have been ruled out, you may want to consider a psychological cause for your anxiety symptoms. If avoidance and distraction are perpetuating your anxiety loop or you are engaging in distorted thinking patterns, the help of a good cognitive-behavioral therapist can be very helpful in getting rid of your anxiety-producing symptoms.